Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


The weather had been ideal during the first day of the international-turned-national meet at Frogner, as if to honour the darling of the nation on the occasion of his last races. But on the second day the weather was not ideal, it was a phenomenon. In the night a gale had blown up from the south again. It held several degrees above freezing and its mildness brought hints of spring to the thousands that found their way on foot or with other means of transport up Kirkeveien this Frogner Sunday. The wind died down during the morning hours, and the ice, with a good reservoir of cold, didn’t melt, it just acquired an oily film in the interface towards the mild spring air, making it super smooth.

Never before had skating been so popular in the Norwegian capital city. Frogner Stadion had installed electric lights and these pulled a multitude to the rink in the long winter evenings. Kristiania IF and Bislett tried to compete with illumination feasts, featuring torch rallies, oriental lights and tar barrels. Sounds exotic, but Bislett struggled against bankruptcy in those days. Frogner was the meeting place for the skating public.

“En vrimmel”, from “Tidens Tegn”

Kirkeveien was thick with people this phenomenal day, thicker than anyone could remember since its opening in 1913. The crowd in the stadium at least was 16 thousand, probably more, gathering for a welcome distraction from the wartime life, which could be dreary, especially if your shares didn’t rise satisfactorily. The first race was the 1500m, starting at 1 p.m., and a new Mathisen-Strøm duel was the main feature. Oscar was disappointed with his races the day before. Beaten in the 10000m. Nearly beaten even in the 500m. Not the kind of stuff he needed to back up his side in the negotiations with Johnson & company. Today he would show them something different. He had to.

As the two skaters were ready on the starting line, the orchestra started playing this popular hit song: “It should go slowly, but surely.”

But when the flag eventually fell, it did not go slowly at all; rather, Oscar exploited his pace advantage fully from the start and soon was 10 meters ahead, increasing to 15 meter at the first intermediate checkpoint. Now, however, Strøm was skating as if his life depended on it and didn’t lose any more ground until well into the 3rd lap, when Oscar started pulling away again as the crowd noise rose to a crescendo. In the last lap the difference increased slowly but surely in tune with the music, and when they were done it was 30 meters. The times were phenomenal, 2.19,9 and 2.22,9—the latter more than 3 seconds under Strøm’s pb from last week, and he was now 4th in the all-time list with only Oscar Mathisen, Vasilij Ippolitov and Peder Østlund above him. Oscar’s time was the last under 2.20 for the next 12 years and the last lowland time under 2.20 for 15 years. The applause only slowly receded and the rest of the 1500m skaters only got the reverberations, despite skating fine times with two more personal bests.

From the 1500 or 5000 m race, Norsk Idrætsblad. A much reproduced image

1.Oscar Mathisen, KSK        2.19,9
2.Kristian Strøm, Hortens SK 2.22,9 pb
3.Henning Olsen, KSK         2.25,6
4.Gustav Gulbrandsen, KSK    2.30,5 pb
5.Ole Mamen, KSK             2.30,8
6.Theodor Pedersen, KSK      2.31,9 pb
7.Sverre Aune, TSK           2.34,1
8.Sigurd Syversen, KSK       2.35,4
Melvin Johansen, Hamar SK    2.35,4
10.Magnus Herseth, KSK       2.37,0
11.Wilhelm Wolff, KSK        2.41,9
Karl Gulbrandsen, KSK fell, dnf
1.Oscar Mathisen, KSK        4
2.Kristian Strøm, Hortens SK 5
3.Gustav Gulbrandsen, KSK   10
4.Sverre Aune, TSK          14.5
5.Theodor Pedersen, KSK     15
6.Ole Mamen, KSK            16
7.Sigurd Syversen, KSK      21
8.Melvin Johansen, Hamar SK 23.5
9.Wilhelm Wolff, KSK        26

Junior races usually were regarded as mere filler material, to fill the gaps between the proper races. But this time they were quite sensational, as Henning Olsen’s brother Oskar Olsen, “the new Oscar”, swept through his 500m in 46,1, an improvement of his pb by 1.7 seconds and good enough for 2nd place in yesterday’s official senior competition. It also gave him a 16th place in the all-time list, improving from his former 82nd. Several others also set personal bests, so the quality of the ice evidently was not diminishing. The wind had died almost completely now, and it was cold enough to prevent the oily layer from expanding, but not cold enough to freeze it.

1500m junior:
1.Oskar Olsen, KSK          46,1 pb
2.Frithjof Paulsen, KSK     48,6 pb
3.Hans Trygve Hansen, KSK   48,9 eq. pb
4.Adelsten Fyhn, KSK        49,1
5.Sverre Jacobsen, Hamar SK 49,7 pb
6.Alf Larsen, KSK           50,5 pb
7.Asbjørn Pedersen, KSK     52,4

When Aune and Mamen in an early pair skated 8.45,8 and 8.53,3, respectively, a strong pb by the latter and his first time under 9 minutes, it was clear that the ice had not deteriorated yet. And it was good still when Oscar Mathisen and Kristian Strøm were ready in the 5th pair for their third duel this weekend. The pair got under way and after a cautious opening at 63 seconds, 3 behind the world record, Oscar set up a strong pace, laptime 40 and splittime 1.43—2 behind the record. But Strøm clung to him like an angry deerfly, determined that now was the time. If he could beat Oscar in this distance as well they would at least be equal in place numbers, then the samalog points would decide. Next lap was 41, splittime 2.24 and one behind the record. Then another 41 lap, split 3.05 and now equal to the record. Where would this end? The next laps were alternate 41s and 42s, probably an even set of 41.5 laps, Oscar in the lead but the Hortenser following closely. 2200m split 3.47, laptime 42 and one behind the Davos record. 2600m 4.28, laptime 41 and still one behind. Strøm chased his pairmate like a bloodthirsty carnivore, ready to go for his throat at the slightest sign of weakness. At 3000m they clocked 5.10—laptime 42 and one behind the record. The next laptime was 41, splittime 5.51 and now equal to the record again. The speed probably wasn’t any higher, it was the rounding that made the difference. But Strøm was beginning to feel it. He was slightly behind at the split, and couldn’t catch up. The crowd saw it and got notably louder. At 3800m the difference was several meters—splittime 6.33, laptime 42 and one behind the world record. The record had 43 for the next lap, third to last, but Oscar kept his pace and made the split in 7.14, one ahead of the record! But he needed that, for the finish in Davos had been strong. His pairmate now was definitely behind, and the applause flowed from the stands like windstorms. Last split was 7.56 and now equal to the record again. But Oscar squeezed out his last drops of energy for his last amateur race and skated the last 400 meters in a tempo that drove the crowds up to an even higher frenzy. As he crossed the line the din was more deafening than anything he had heard until then, but the crowd broke that noise record just seconds later when the new world record time 8.36,3 was announced. They knew that they had witnessed a battle of giants overshadowing even the goings on down in the fields of France, one that was sure to be remembered and discussed from generation to generation and to go down in time as a dividing line in speed skating history. They forgot all worries and class differences. Shipowners embraced errand boys; everything was all one in an ear-killing pandemonium of noise and happiness.

Oscar Mathisen and Kristian Strøm after their 5000m race, from Norsk Idrætsblad

When the last pair had finished their race, largely unnoticed, and the meet officially was over, Oscar was summoned out on the ice again. The whole club board had gathered in the middle of the rink and were waiting for him. The chairman, lieutenant Chr. Seeberg, had a huge laurel wreath in his arms, the biggest Oscar had seen, and spoke at length about his achievements and importance for the club and the town and the skating sport and the country in general while the entire audience stood in deep silence and tried to listen in, taken in by the moment. But when the speech was over and Oscar had received his wreath, they let go and used up whatever strength they had left in their vocal cords. Oscar started a lap of honour, but the Kristianensers would not have been themselves if they hadn’t stopped it after a short while, storming onto the ice and lifting him on their shoulders, carrying him around the rest of the lap and into the club house.

1.Oscar Mathisen, KSK        8.36,3 pb WR NR
2.Kristian Strøm, Hortens SK 8.40,9 pb
3.Sverre Aune, TSK           8.45,8
4.Ole Mamen, KSK             8.53,3 pb
5.Henning Olsen, KSK         8.53,9 pb
6.Gustav Gulbrandsen, KSK    9.03,9 pb
7.Theodor Pedersen, KSK      9.07,0 pb
8.Karl Gulbrandsen, KSK      9.12,6 pb
9.Melvin Johansen, Hamar SK  9.22,7
10.Sigurd Syversen, KSK      9.29,6
11.Magnus Herseth, KSK       9.45,1 pb
12.Wilhelm Wolff, KSK        9.49,5 pb
Total points:
1.Oscar Mathisen, KSK        5
2.Kristian Strøm, Hortens SK 7
3.Gustav Gulbrandsen, KSK   15
4.Sverre Aune, TSK          17.5
5.Ole Mamen, KSK            20
6.Theodor Pedersen, KSK     21
7.Sigurd Syversen, KSK      30
8.Melvin Johansen, Hamar SK 31.5
9.Wilhelm Wolff, KSK        36

The Russian championship continued meanwhile with the 1500 and the 10000 m on Devitsje Pole in Moscow. The conditions were not as good as the day before, and the times were so-so. Platon Ippolitov won both distances and the championship. The broken-through Kalinin fell behind in the 10000m, but secured the overall silver. After his 10k debut he entered Adelskalenderen in 91st place.

1.Platon Ippolitov, Moscow    2.39,4
2.Vladimir Kalinin, Petrograd 2.41,2
3.Sergej Kurbatov, Moscow     2.42,0
4.A Nefedov, Moscow           2.42,4 eq. pb

Other known results: Arthur Kukk of Tallinn, 2.55,0.

1.Platon Ippolitov, Moscow    19.34,0
2.Nikolaj Ivanov, Moscow      19.56,2 pb
3.A Nefedov, Moscow           19.58,0
4.Sergej Kurbatov, Moscow     19.59,0
5.Vladimir Kalinin, Petrograd 20.09,6 pb

Mr. Kukk finished in 20.27,0.

Total points:
1.Platon Ippolitov, Moscow     4.5
2.Vladimir Kalinin, Petrograd 10.5
3.A Nefedov, Moscow           14
4.Sergej Kurbatov, Moscow     17
5.Nikolaj Ivanov, Moscow      21
6.A Gazenfus, Riga            21

At the HSK national meet in the Helsinki northern harbour, Clas Thunberg won the 1500 m in a new personal best and looked likely to win his 2nd meet in a row, this time against the topmost competition. He climbed from 49th to 39th place in the world all-time 1500m list. The team for the match against Kristiania and Stockholm in February was to be selected after this meet, and Thunberg, who missed it last year thinking he was qualified, thought he had dispelled all doubt this time.

1.Clas Thunberg, HL       2.29,8 pb
2.Väinö Wickström, HSK    2.31,6
3.Julius Skutnabb, HSK    2.33,2
4.Waldemar Bergström, HSK 2.36,2
5.Walter Tverin, HSK      2.36,7
Arvo Jalovaara, HKV       2.36,7
7.Alfred Strömstén, IFK   2.39,4 pb
8.Axel Lindholm, HSK      2.39,6
9.Emil Wilhelmsson, HSK   2.45,9
10.P Forsberg, HSK        2.47,4
Gösta Strömstén, IFK dnf
Ilmari Danska, HSK ikke stilt
1.Clas Thunberg       4
2.Julius Skutnabb     8
Väinö Wickström       8
4.Waldemar Bergström 14
5.Walter Tverin      14.5
Alfred Strömstén     17
8.Arvo Jalovaara     21
9.Axel Lindholm      22
11.Emil Wilhelmsson  28.5
12.P Forsberg        29

Thunberg lost comprehensively to his pairmate Skutnabb in the 10000m. Now he had to hope that no more than 3 people would end up between them in the distance. Bergström was a good help when he, in his own struggle to qualify for the team, beat Skutnabb by less than a second. And Wickström finishing 0.6 seconds behind Thunberg also helped.

1.Waldemar Bergström 18.36,4
2.Julius Skutnabb    18.37,2
3.Arvo Jalovaara     18.58,3f
4.Gösta Strömstén    18.58,9
5.Alfred Strömstén   19.08,8 pb
6.Clas Thunberg      19.09,4
7.Väinö Wickström    19.10,0
8.Walter Tverin      19.21,4
9.P Forsberg         20.17,2 pb
10.Emil Wilhelmsson  20.43,4
Axel Lindholm dns
Total points:
1.Clas Thunberg, HL        9
2.Julius Skutnabb, HSK    10
3.Väinö Wickström, HSK    14 (210.193)
4.Waldemar Bergström, HSK 14 (212.907)
5.Alfred Strömstén, IFK   21
6.Walter Tverin, HSK      21.5
7.Arvo Jalovaara, HKV     23
8.P Forsberg, HSK         34
9.Emil Wilhelmsson, HSK   34.5

That Thunberg still, despite these apparently convincing wins over his Helsinki rivals, was not selected for the match, has gone down as one of the bigger scandals in speedskating history. But his restraining of his inner rage over it may have given him the energy he needed to keep on for so long and at such a level as he did. And at the same time it may have been part of the reason why he never reached the goal that he chased for his entire skating career, Oscar Mathisen’s record in the 1500m. But this is a question that we might get the opportunity to return to at some future time.

At the Kaleva meet on Kaisaniemi bay, Arvo Tuomainen won the two remaining distances as well.

1.Arvo Tuomainen, Pyrintö Tampere 2.40,4
2.Eino Wikström, HKV              2.40,5
3.Lauri Brander, HKV              2.42,3 pb
4.Atte Lindqvist, Kaleva          2.44,6
5.Hjalmar Tuomi, Pyrintö          2.45,7f
6.Alfred Jokinen, Pyrintö         2.56,0
7.P Immell, HKV                   2.56,4
8.Y Virtanen                      3.00,2 pb
1.Arvo Tuomainen  3
2.Eino Wikström   9
3.Atte Lindqvist 10
4.Lauri Brander  11
5.Hjalmar Tuomi  15
6.Alfred Jokinen 17
7.P Immell       20
8.Y Virtanen     23
1.Arvo Tuomainen  19.42,1
2.Hjalmar Tuomi   19.47,4
3.Eino Wikström   19.49,2
4.Atte Lindqvist  19.50,2
5.Lauri Brander   20.46,0 pb
6.P Immell        22.05,6 pb
7.Alfred Jokinen  22.08,7 pb
8.Y Virtanen      22.17,8 pb
Total points:
1.Arvo Tuomainen  4
2.Eino Wikström  12
3.Atte Lindqvist 14
4.Lauri Brander  16
5.Hjalmar Tuomi  17
6.Alfred Jokinen 24
7.P Immell       26
8.Y Virtanen     31

In Sweden the Stockholm district championship continued. Many pbs were set on Östermalms IP, and the conditions seem to have been good, but hopefully, for the sake of the Swedes, not as good as at Frogner. Paul Zerling won both of the Sunday distances, in 2.35,1 and 19.10,8. Gustaf Wiberg finished second, well behind, but well ahead of the rest—apparently a good talent. A few others further down the list also showed great progress, such as Axel Blomqvist and Werner Eriksson.